Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Idaho”

Who’s this ‘we’?

The Idaho quote of last week: Idaho Falls attorney and Republican state party official Bryan Smith saying, “If Idaho gets ranked choice voting, we’re finished. It’s that simple.”

That could be true, depending on how you define “we.”

Smith could be referring to the Idaho Republican Party, but that won’t work. Idaho simply has too many Republicans, and Republican-leaning voters, for any tactics like ranked choice or even gerrymandering to much change the picture.

But it could change which Republicans are in charge.

Let’s game this out.

The system of primary elections, as Idaho has known it, would go away. Instead, in the primary (in the sense of “first”) election, all candidates for a given office - specifically, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, state legislature, statewide office, and county elective offices - would appear on the ballot, and voters could pick one candidate for each of them. If only four or fewer people have filed for a specific office, they proceed to the November election directly; if more than four file, then the four top vote-getters continue to the general election.

Then in November, when voters select from among those (up to) four people, they get to make a nuanced choice: They pick a first preference, then a second (in case the first choice falls short of winning), and a third. If no candidate gets an outright majority among top-choice votes, then the second-place votes come into play, and maybe the third, until someone winds up with a majority of the vote. That would eliminate the idea of someone winning one of those offices with, say, 23% of the vote. Every winner will have had to get some level of support from a majority of voters.

In most contests, the decision would be made the way it always has: In any race with only two candidates, one always gets an outright majority. This change would only affect races with three or more candidates.

Where will this make a difference? Mainly in two places.

One is where two major-party candidates are in a competitive contest, and an independent or third-party candidate, or more than one, also is on the ballot. We do see a number of these for top-of-ballot offices like governor (less often locally, though it happens), and if the major party contenders are close, the minors can make a difference. (Consider Ralph Nader and the Florida election results in 2000.) Ranked choice would change that by asking people to mark their second choice, resulting in a more-acceptable result to a majority of voters.

The second place it matters is when a major, especially dominant, political party has a split between factions. In California, Alaska and Washington state, which have variations of this election system in place, some districts are so strongly Democratic or Republican that the top two choices in November sometimes belong to just one party.

And that works. Imagine a legislative district fairly typical in Idaho: strongly Republican, with three candidates filing for a seat: A traditional conservative Republican, a Republican in the mold of the more extreme state party leadership, and a Democrat. All three would pass through the primary to November. Then, if the district is strongly Republican - as most in Idaho are - the two Republicans probably would wind up in first and second place, possibly with neither getting a majority. The Democratic voters would then be able to weigh in on one of the Republicans as a second choice.

That might - might - throw the election to the mainstream Republican, and that precisely is what has state party leaders like Smith and Chair Dorothy Moon so concerned. But consider what it also means: All of the voters will get to have a meaningful voice in who is elected to represent them, which is far from the situation now. All of the candidates would have an open shot at persuading the voters to elect them. What would matter is what the voters choose.

It would allow voters to choose the elected officials, not the other way around. If some party leaders disapprove of that, pause a moment to consider why.


Open ballot, mirror image

As Idaho voters start to consider the idea of opening primary election ballots in their state to all voters, they might want to view the concept from a neighboring angle.

Oregon also has the question of opening primary elections on its ballot (as also do the states of Nevada, Oklahoma, Nebraska and South Dakota). What does the picture look like there?

(Yes, I know the Idaho measure also builds in a ranked-vote approach, which Oregon’s doesn’t. I’ll come back to that another time.)

Oregon voters already have gotten mailers from the backing group, All Oregon Votes, which quoted former (non-aligned) gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson as saying, “Damn near half the state’s voters are independents. They ought to have an equal voice in our democracy.”

The organization, which says it wants to reduce “hyperpartisanship,” put it this way: “Our measure does not prevent political parties from endorsing or promoting candidates at any stage of the election process. However, political parties should not have an exclusive right to nominate candidates to the general election ballot. That right should be shared by all voters, not just a partisan few.”

Oregon Republicans don’t like it. The dominant forces in its party lean firmly to the right, not the middle, and the current system gives them nominees that match with them.

Neither does the Oregon Democratic Party, which has dominated politics statewide and doesn’t much care to change things. Also, just like across the aisle: The dominant forces in its party lean firmly to the left, not the middle, and the current system gives them nominees that match with them.

Oregon is one of the few states allowing only party members to participate in their primary elections, and that applies to both Democrats and Republicans. Here’s an example of what that means. In last year’s primary election, the top two candidates for Oregon governor, Democrat Tina Kotek (who now holds the office), and Republican Christine Drazan, together pulled just 12.3% of votes from all the registered voters in the state. Only about 30% of the Oregonians qualified to vote were even involved in selecting those two nominees.

The largest slice of Oregon voters is made up of the “non-aligned,” more numerous (there are more than a million) than either Democrats or Republicans. Oregonians are careful to call them NAVs because there is also an Independent Party of Oregon, which has so many members it has sometimes reached major party status alongside the Ds and Rs. What this means is that a lot of registered voters are on the outside when the primary election winnowing takes place.

Oregon’s Initiative Petition 26 would apply to all state and federal offices (other than president and vice president) and allows all candidates to appear on the ballot, “regardless of whether the candidate is or is not affiliated with a political party.” All voters could choose any single candidate for each office. That could mean, for example, voting in the primary for a Republican nominee for the U.S. House, for a Democratic nominee for governor and a non-aligned candidate for the Legislature.

I wrote about this (in another column), “Those debates implicate the question of what a major political party is, whether simply private aggregations of voters or semi-public, though technically private, organizations that effectively control the channels of representative democracy. It may also raise the issue of how well the two major parties are representing the mass of Oregon voters.”

That may have something to do with why the two Oregon parties are cool, at best, to the idea.

A point worth considering in Idaho as voters think about how to fix their badly busted primary election system.


Jumping the gun

The legal case stemming from the killing last year of four University of Idaho students is underway, with no result - conviction, acquittal or something else - likely for months to come. During what may be an extended pause in the visible part of the process, there’s time to consider what’s happened so far.

My prompt for that is a new book (slated for release on October 4), While Idaho Slept, by J. Reuben Appelman, piecing together the substantial mass of details about the case collected and publicly available.

Absent a legal resolution of the case, the book may seem premature. Still, some months ago a book by Leah Sottile, “When the Moon Turns to Blood,” successfully reviewed another not-yet-folly-resolved criminal case by considering not so much the crime itself as the background relating to it. Appelman may be doing the same here, providing a focus for pause and reflection.

Too often, the focus in crimes like this is on the perpetrator, which may have the effect of feeding a criminal’s simple hunger for attention. (It’s only a gesture, but I won’t name the accused in this column.) Appelman seems to have considered this, and while fully backgrounding the accused, said of his effort that “My goal in writing it was to elevate public memory of the victims … What happened to the victims on King Road has made me appreciate how truly valuable each of our lives are, and taught me to hold tightly to the many people who have stayed with me throughout the years.”

Much of the book does focus on them, though an assembly of information about the subsequent investigation inevitably had to extend further.

But in reading the book, I was reminded of something else.

Last December, about three weeks following the killings but before an arrest has been made or suspect named, I wrote, “And while complaints are abundant about that not having happened yet, and about the relative scarcity of information that’s been released, those of us not in the middle of the investigation really have little way of knowing how well law enforcement is or isn’t doing. (Credit due, though, for the willingness to clear people who have been thrown into the rumor circle’s suspect pile.) Eventually, we will be able to evaluate.”

While Idaho Slept makes a good case that law enforcement did in fact do its job.

The word that comes to mind, after knowing now much more about the inquiry, is “methodical,” in a good way. In many murder cases, the offender is either obvious or someone on a suspect short list, and that wasn’t remotely the case here. (The actual connection between the accused and the victims still seems, based on publicly available information, the thinnest part of the case.) Investigators didn’t seem to have a lot to work with in tracking down their suspect.

But they used effectively what data they did have, including a knife sheath, GPS records and other odds and ends, which were put carefully through their paces. Each time Appelman brought up some detail related to the case, I thought: I hope the cops checked that out. And then it turned out they did, more efficiently and energetically than it probably seemed from the outside at the time. While people not only in Moscow but around the world were hollering about the lack of an arrest, the police were patiently assembling the pieces and tracking down their guy, while being careful not to spook him and send him into flight.

Law enforcement comes off pretty well in this story.

Of course, there’s no conviction so far, and as always we have yet to see how a jury reacts to the evidence presented (which could include more than we’re publicly aware of now).

Sometimes, patience is what’s called for.


Connecting links

Political movements are reliant on plenty of raw, flammable material, but they can start small - at, let’s say, a dinner where two political people talk about what’s wrong and how to fix it. Such a dinner can matter in hindsight if it leads enough people to follow up.

It may have happened in Idaho on the evening of August 18, when two Idaho Republicans named Patrick Whalen and Treg Berndt sat down to dine and discuss.

The account comes from Whelan of Kootenai County, a veteran of intra-party political battles over the last decade; he ran and lost a legislative primary in 2014. Kootenai County Republicans essentially (with recognition that the full story is riotously complex) fall into two main groups: Those who support the official county party organization (led for some years now by Brent Regan), the chaotic governing board of North Idaho College, and the ideological Idaho Freedom Foundation; and, on the other side, those who do not, and consider themselves to be the real Republicans.

In their telling, the local (and much of the state) GOP has been taken over by extremists, wreckers and often people from outside the area. The now-dominant Regan group considers itself the “true” conservatives and real Republicans, with the suggestion that others (RINOs) are not real Republicans and should be driven out of the party. This second group has won out, to date, in large part because they out-organized their opposition. They’re strongest in the Panhandle but the two sides can be found, in conflict, in most parts of Idaho.

The mainstream Republicans (as I’ll call them) have been caught behind the curve, but they may be starting to catch up. For some years they’ve been working on building a counter-organization to try to take back (not an unreasonable way to put it since many in their ranks are former elected officials) the Republican organization, and elective spots.

The most recent iteration is the North Idaho Republicans, and Patrick Whalen was one of its founders. At dinner on August 18, he had plenty to discuss with Treg Berndt, who is a Republican state senator from Meridian. Whalen described him: “You would recognize him — he is just the kind of stable, reasonable and intelligent Republican that is no longer welcome by today’s Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.”

He added, “As a North Idaho resident, I am far more used to hearing from our legislators conspiracy theories and the tearing down of institutions like [North Idaho College] and the libraries. Idaho really does have some positive Republican leaders.”

Part of their discussion concerned a group Berndt has joined: Main Street Idaho, Republican legislators - non-Regan-style. Some 25 of them (Senate President pro tem Chuck Winder was one) signed a letter on August 29 calling simply for a willingness to disagree without going to war: “Our founding fathers set the example of leading through disagreement and conflict. It’s what the vast majority of Idahoans expect and want from their elected leaders, too! We can deliver this kind of leadership in Idaho, but it will require us to engage more with those who may not see issues the way we see them. No longer can we retreat to the safety of our political tribes.”

The group has started a blog, offered positions on a number of issues including fentanyl, farming, taxes, and immigration, and has launched a series of podcasts in which various of the group’s members talk about issues (and - gasp) how things work, in an educational approach rather than the flinging of red meat to the base.

Both groups, those Whalen and Berndt have joined, appear to be trying to restore more civility and inclusiveness in Idaho Republican politics. But can it work? It might if they can work together, and bring in additional people of like minds.

Circle back to the dinner. The next day, reflecting on it, Whalen wrote, “We all need to work together to restore the Idaho Republican Party to its former stature and elect positive-minded leaders who will work on Idaho’s real problems and reject calls to Christian nationalism and white supremacy.”

The opportunity is there. We’ll see before long if they exploit it.


Total recall

Two sets of numbers, from a small district’s election in the Idaho panhandle this week, tells an important story and raises some worthwhile questions.

In the general election of 2021, Susan Brown won the zone 2 seat, and Keith Rutledge the zone 3 seat, of the West Bonner County School District board. She won with 176 votes out of a total 349 votes (for three candidates), and he won with 244 votes out of a total 481 votes (for two candidates). Each in other words won with slightly more than a majority of the vote in six precincts (one of which cast zero votes).

On Tuesday, Rutledge, the board chair, and Brown, the vice chair, were on the ballot again, this time for voters to decide whether to recall them. This time, close to two-thirds of the voters chose to recall both Brown - 624 to recall, 322 to retain, a total of 946 - and Rutledge - 762 to recall, 454 to retain, a total of 1,216.

One obvious point from that comparison is the reversal of fortune, from a close win to a sweeping repudiation. But the other point may be more significant: About two and a half times as many voters cast ballots in the special recall election than had in the regular election a couple of years before.

People will have varied interpretations of why that happened. But what should be clear is that something significant happened in the community, an area centered around Priest River between Sandpoint and the Washington line.

It wasn’t a matter of deception on the part of the board members; a look at what they had to say before the 2021 election made clear where they were headed. (I’ll focus here on Rutledge.)

School boards in Idaho are nonpartisan, but Rutledge did have an endorsement from the Bonner County Republican Central Committee, and apparent approval from the Idaho Freedom Foundation (theoretically non-political but highly supportive of agitator-wing Republicans).

In a questionnaire on the IFF’s website, Rutledge regularly cites his concern about classroom indoctrination with “leftist ideas.” An education plan from the state Board of Education “has no business being taught in our schools regardless of the reasons given,” and “Sexual orientation and gender identity have no business being taught in school for any reason for any age. What's the point? More indoctrination?”

He was clear enough about where, in a general sense, he was coming from. So was Brown.

The couple of years that followed have been  tumultuous for the district. Many of the problems, some financial and some relating to education methods, grew out of board actions or inactions. The tipping point was the hiring of a new superintendent, Branden Durst, who was a long-time IFF associate (and former state superintendent of public instruction candidate, and conservative activist) without professional education experience and lacking the needed certification for the job. He was approved by a board majority, including Rutledge and Brown, instead of a deeply experienced and much praised local school principal.

Few people seemed to pay much attention to the school district before 2021. But after that election came problem-making that began to interfere with the education of local children, with impacts too close to home not to see. Once those concrete realities started to hit home, attention was concentrated. (Will the same happen in the North Idaho College district in Coeur d’Alene? We will see.)

The Idaho Ed News quoted one parent and recall organizer, Kylie Hoepfer, as saying, “The ‘against [recall] folks’ paint us in bad light saying we are woke liberal donkeys, and most of us behind the recall are conservative Republican, who just wanted school board members who listened to the community.”

Rutledge and Brown may have done their community a major long-range service: The voters seem to be paying attention now.

And they’re voting.


Some focus on fentanyl and meth

While some mass indictments on the other side of the country have attracted more attention, one large-scale indictment of 25 defendants in Idaho (and another associated in Oregon) in another large and complex criminal case deserves some regional review.

The details of this Northwest case - including some indictments from several months ago - throw shards of light on sometimes obscure activities that are a matter of clear concern: Trafficking in deadly fentanyl and methamphetamines.

The indictments were released August 21 through the federal U.S. Attorney’s office, though the work leading to them comes from the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force which includes several federal agencies, state agencies (including the Idaho State Police) and local law enforcement around southern Idaho. Here’s what the agencies concluded:

“... the defendants distributed large amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl throughout Southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon.  Many of the individuals are alleged to have been in possession of firearms at the time they distributed the narcotics.  During the course of these investigations and arrests, law enforcement seized approximately 98 pounds of methamphetamine, approximately 21,000 fentanyl pills, 531 grams of fentanyl powder, 38 firearms, 3 bullet-proof vests, and $121,615 in U.S. currency.”

That still accounts only for a small slice of the full traffic in these substances. This overall case may, however, generate a broad enough picture to draw a few loose conclusions about the shape of meth and fentanyl trafficking in the area.

For example: Of the defendants, 21 were specifically named as being involved with methamphetamine, and just five were cited for fentanyl; three of those latter five were reported to be involved with both. (The remaining defendants, and some of those accused of trafficking, were charged with firearm offenses.) Some of them were charged months ago, and some already have been convicted.

Note here too that firearms possession violations were a key part of making this sweeping prosecution work.

The defendants hail from around the region, but Canyon County seems especially prominent: nine were listed with a Nampa or Caldwell home base. Four others were based only a few miles away, at Ontario, Oregon.

There was also a specific link to a specific drug cartel in Mexico, and to gang activity on this side of the border.

“The Jalisco Cartel is one of the main cartels responsible for the influx of methamphetamine and fentanyl into our communities,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matthew Gomm, who oversees operations in Idaho.  “The relationships these cartels have with our local street gangs allow deadly and dangerous drugs to reach their last mile of distribution

One of the defendants, Isaac Bright, last February pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm.  Bright, the U.S. attorney’s office said, was a documented member of Latin Kings gang “with an extensive criminal history.”

A fair amount of information about the situation has been released, but for those trying to piece together how the meth and fentanyl network in the area works - something we should understand better if we’re going to understand how to combat it - some additional questions might usefully be addressed.

For example: Is there a reason fentanyl is harder than meth to go after? The amounts of fentanyl seized were not small, but there was relatively less prosecution for them compared with the meth. Why was that? Are the networks different? Is the small physical size of the fentanyl product tougher to deal with? And why was it that the amount of money seized for such a substantial operation seemed relatively small; was it larger than it seems in context, was the money (in a digital age) simply hard to grab, or were other factors at play?

In the end, the larger success of law enforcement efforts in public health threats like these depend a great deal on help from the public. And the public can best help when it has a good understanding of how all those pieces fit together, and where their weak links may be.


Mastering education

Amid all the complaints from parents and activists about what they don’t like in public schools, are there ways forward to deal with the constant uproar and simply improve public education? Are there ways to break through the constant telling, accusations and self-destruction?

Sure. And for one good example of useful general direction, look to the Bonneville School District at Idaho Falls, which is in the middle of trying “mastery based teaching.”

Before you dismiss this as just another education fad - and we’ve seen a river of those over the decades - take a look at what the premise of this one entails, and how it might plug into our difficulties in building sound relationships between school districts and many of their constituents. It could be called revolutionary, gut-level basic, intuitively sensible, and even may stand a chance of bringing educators and parents into closer alignment.

Here is how another state (Connecticut) describes the idea: “With mastery-based learning, all students must demonstrate what they have learned before moving on. Before students can pass a course, move on to the next grade level, or graduate, they must demonstrate that they have mastered the skills and knowledge they were expected to learn. If students fail to meet learning expectations, they are given more support and instruction from teachers, more time to learn and practice, and more opportunities to demonstrate progress.”

From that simple premise a lot of ideas become implicit. For one thing, a high school diploma (for example) would mean more: To obtain one, you have to demonstrate certain abilities and understanding. For another, a lot of work with individual students, who have widely varied ways of learning, is implicit. The traditional default mass-production mode of teaching, in which all students are presumed to learn the same way and at the same rate, leaves many under-educated and others frustrated; closer attention to actual mastery of skills and ideas (emphatically not the same thing as teaching to the test) could do a lot more good. True, lots of good teachers do provide individual help for many students, but the system as a whole isn’t well set up for it on a large scale.

As the Connecticut description put it: “Even though learning expectations and evaluation criteria are consistent, teachers can be given more flexibility in how they teach and students can be given more choice in how they learn. For example, teachers don’t need to use the same textbooks, assignments, and tests - as long as their students learn what they need to learn, teachers can develop new and more creative ways to teach.”

And that part of where parents become an essential part of the equation.

But parents and communities also can get into the ground level of teaching designs under this approach, because the first step in looking at a mastery approach should involve deciding what exactly students should be expected to master, and what other options should be offered. Were we to plan education effectively, we might start by deciding more clearly what the end result should look like. Developing those kinds of expectations are where parental - and community - involvement makes the most sense.

The mastery approach can be developed in a variety of ways, and the Bonneville district is finding its own with initial emphasis on reading and writing. A report in the Idaho Ed News quoted Superintendent Scott  Woolstenhulme: “If your time is fixed, your learning is variable. If you want your learning to be fixed, then you need to have variable time. This means some kids are going to take longer to learn certain things and some are going to learn them more quickly, which is the whole point behind mastery-based learning.”

This approach holds out the promise of producing better educated cohorts of students while bringing parents and communities more fully into the process, and taking better advantage of the skills teachers bring to the table.

Don’t say there aren’t any solutions out there for our public schools. Keep a watch on places like Bonneville. They may surprise you.


A bunch of states v. Idaho

State and regional news tends to be highly siloed. Apart from national news, we tend to hear little about what’s happening in other states, which leads to thinking little about them. Sometimes what happens out of state matters to Idaho - and vice versa.

What happens in Idaho doesn’t always stay in Idaho.

As Idaho is learning – in court.

Idaho is now under the irritated attention of a bunch of jurisdictions, including the states of Washington, Oregon, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia, all places where abortion remains (in general at least) legal. The subject of irritation: One of Idaho’s new abortion laws. In the wave of lawsuits against it, this particular case should get some attention.

The new Idaho law in question imposes a number of restrictions related to abortion, including criminalizing some adult involvement with interstate travel for minors that involves abortion legal in another state. (It also may, depending on how you read it, chill speech concerning abortion and other subjects; that is the subject of another lawsuit.)

The lawsuit drawing in the crowd of states was filed in federal court by the Northwest Abortion Access Fund and the Indigenous Idaho Alliance, and on behalf of a lawyer who works with minors on subjects including abortion. But on August 2, they got support from an amicus brief in which all of those states in the last paragraph (plus the district) weighed in. The brief originated with Robert Ferguson, the Washington state attorney general, who was quickly joined by others. (The brief itself is not long and worth reading.) The states, like the plaintiffs, asked that the Idaho law be blocked, at least in part.

Part of the brief hinges on an interpretation of the abortion law by Idaho’s attorney general’s office, in a March 27 letter which has been withdrawn (though not reversed or repudiated). The provision concerns helping an Idahoan obtain an abortion which isn’t legal in Idaho, in another state.

The legal logic involved in the law becomes rapidly more complex than its drafters may have anticipated.

The other states, for example, said that “in finding that referrals for out-of-state abortions are prohibited by Idaho law, the Attorney General necessarily concludes that the out-of-state abortions themselves violate Idaho law. The Constitution forbids such an interpretation of state law.”

There is much more. For example:

“First, any residents of other states traveling to, or temporarily residing in, Idaho and seeking healthcare services could be affected. Second, as the provider of health insurance for state employees and their children, who may be temporarily visiting or residing in Idaho, Amici States have a direct financial interest in preventing increased risk to patients and cost of medical care resulting from undue delays or impeded continuity of care.

“Finally, healthcare providers licensed in multiple states including Idaho would reasonably fear Idaho’s apparent reading of its laws, producing a chilling effect on the lawful provision of healthcare in other states. For example, a healthcare provider licensed in both Idaho and a neighboring state, such as Washington or Oregon, may be reluctant to provide abortion services in Washington or Oregon for fear of being subjected to licensing enforcement action in Idaho, potentially resulting in the restriction of their Idaho license or the imposition of fines.”

The states also spoke about residents of their states passing through Idaho and being affected by the law - which would be the case. Travel to another state, and you’re bound to live by their rules. But abortion can be a little different, the states suggested. For example:

“... any pregnancy and miscarriage complications can require time-sensitive treatment, including abortion care, to stabilize emergency conditions. In such circumstances, any failure or delays in providing necessary abortion care puts the pregnant patient’s life or health at risk.”

Our borders are porous. We may think that our states are stand-alone and can easily go our own way. But that’s true only to a point. We do have an effect on each other, like it or not.


DeSantis and the Idaho campaign

National pundits are largely unified around the idea that former President Donald Trump is so far ahead in support for the Republican nomination for his previous office that none of the other contenders stand much chance of catching him. I won’t argue that as of now, indictments notwithstanding, that seems an accurate assessment.

If the current trajectory holds, the Republican nomination could be a done deal by the time any Idaho Republicans get to vote on it, whether in primary or caucus.

But that doesn’t mean Idaho and the Republican battle for the presidential nomination are unconnected, at least this year. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been on the air this year with radio spots in Idaho, and his campaign would have reasons.

He does have cheerleaders in Idaho. One of them may be the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which in January delivered an opinion piece on university spending in Florida - referencing DeSantis’ policy there - and concluding, “So, bravo to DeSantis and company for showing bold leadership in the Sunshine State. Let’s hope we will see some of that here in Idaho soon.” The group has offered other laudatory comments (making the case that DeSantis is a better governor than Idaho’s Brad Little) as well.

This can be taken as an indication that significant portions of Idaho’s state Republican Party leadership may be (or may have been) drawn toward DeSantis, given how close many of them (and many legislators as well)  are to the Foundation. There’s also a personal Idaho link to the DeSantis campaign: former Idaho Deputy Attorney General David Dewhirst this spring left to work for DeSantis.

From the national perspective, a DeSantis strategist logically might look at which states Trump lost in his nomination battle in 2016 (effectively unopposed in 2020, he won them all then). Eight years ago, Idaho was one of the holdouts: Texas Senator Ted Cruz romped in the Gem State, and it wasn’t close (45.4 percent to 28.1 percent for Trump, with Marco Rubio running third at 15.9 percent).

What’s also notable about the results is that the dozen counties Trump won were in the lightly-populated, low-growth central-mountainous part of the state. The state’s urban centers, from the Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene areas to Moscow and Lewiston, and to the south in Ada, Canyon, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Idaho Falls and Rexburg, all went for Cruz over Trump. Might DeSantis campaign planners see opportunity there?

I suspect they do, and the nature of that radio advertising suggests one angle for it.

What he said in the ad is, “The members of Congress will never vote to limit their own power. That’s why we need states to step up and take action. Idaho could be the next state to pass a resolution calling for an Article V term limits convention — giving state legislators a way to make term limits on Congress a reality.”

It was a call for a constitutional convention - a “convention of states” - an action never taken in the nation’s history. The reason is that such a convention might do almost anything, including throwing out the current constitution and replacing it (which is how we got this one). The eerie potential of that concerns people on both sides of the spectrum; on the right, Twin Falls radio show host Bill Colley wrote against it out of concern of what left learners might do to, say, the second amendment. Whether you come from the left or right, there’s plenty to be worried about should such a convention be called.

But the convention idea in recent years has generated traction among organization Idaho Republicans, and there have been attempts in the Idaho Legislature to call for a convention. It’s easy to see the current Republican leadership seizing on the idea, and DeSantis forces trying to leverage that for support in Idaho.

Idaho may be some distance from the core action in the Republican nomination battle - that would be in Florida - but in national politics these days, you can run but you can’t hide.